The Impact They Made

When I was 11 years old, my grandpa died. I knew him as a grandson would – a fun loving family member. This was the extent of how I knew him. I knew him in family situations. He loved to golf, went to church, laughed a lot, and snored when he napped. It wasn’t until he passed away that I learned more about him.

At the funeral home, I was introduced to SO many people. “You’re grandpa was one of a kind!” “I loved your grandpa!” “He was a good man.” “You’re grandpa loved you!” “I’m going to miss your grandpa very much.” People shared stories with me, told me of how important he was to them, and showed me a side of him I had no idea existed!

A recent blog I wrote about my Godmother spoke of “waiting in the line.” You can read it here:

I wrote that before I went to the funeral home to pay my respects. Little did I know that it was foreshadowing what would happen when I got there.

The doors opened at 3pm for the viewing. I dropped the kids off at Nana’s house so I could drive down. I arrived around 3:25pm. The parking lot was full. I didn’t find this odd, as it was a big funeral home and I figured that there were other families visiting someone who had passed away.

When I walked up to the doors, I opened them and was immediately met with a group of 10 people standing in a lobby-like area between two sets of doors. The creepy funeral home person greeted me and asked who I was there to see. When I told him, he explained that I was at the end of the line to get into the room where the viewing was taking place.

Slowly, the line crept forward as more and more people joined the back of the line. The line was now out the door and down the sidewalk leading to the funeral home. It was no doubt almost to the parking lot. When I finally entered the room where my Godmother was laid out, I could see that there were already many people who had been through the line and either sitting down or looking at the various picture boards.

As I waited my turn, I watched the video that was playing on the TV in the corner. There were so many pictures I had never seen before. Pictures of her graduation, her wedding, her grandchildren, family vacations, and someone had even put the picture I posted of her and I in the video montage. I was touched by that.

At the front of the line, I hugged and spoke with her two sons and her husband. Then I paused at the casket and silently prayed. As the line continued, I spoke with her sisters (my cousins) and had reached the end of the line. I looked around the room and it was pretty much standing room only and the line was still out the door. I walked out of the room and observed that the line was indeed almost 4 times as long as it was when I first arrived.

I smiled. Just like with my grandpa, I was witnessing a facet of my Godmother’s life that I was unaware of. As special as my Godmother was to me, I thought about all of these people that were there for her. I’m sure they all had their own special memories of her to share. I thought of how many people were walking up to her grandchildren and telling them, “Your grandma loved you very much!” She touched many lives and brought happiness to a lot of people.

In a previous blog, I wrote: I understand that death is a part of life.  I am reminded of a quote from my psychology class that said, “The hardest part of losing someone isn’t having to say goodbye, but rather learning to live without them – always having to fill the void, the emptiness that’s left inside your heart when they go.”  This is so true.  Leo Buscaglia said, “Death is a challenge.  It tells us not to waste time.”  Also true.  Bruce Lee, who died at the young age of 32, said, “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” 

In yet another previous blog I wrote: the late author Terry Pratchett says this: “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.”  This ties in with the “ripple effect” mentioned in the above picture. Life will go one long after we are gone, but as long as our stories are shared, or a memory is relived, or our name comes up – there are ripples. Based on the amount of people I saw this weekend, my Godmother will be leaving ripples for a long time.

In the meantime, we “adjust” to life without her …

Holiday Grief

The song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” but for some, it isn’t. Some are dealing with grief and the loss of a loved one and I tend to think that the holidays make that grief a bit more difficult than it already is.

I have written about death and grief before. In reflecting on events of the past few days and past few months, I was moved to revisit an old blog and write again on the subjects.

Back in August, a classmate passed away from Covid-19. This week, one of my dearest friend’s brother passed away. Both were under 55.

In a previous blog, I wrote: I understand that death is a part of life.  I am reminded of a quote from my psychology class that said, “The hardest part of losing someone isn’t having to say goodbye, but rather learning to live without them – always having to fill the void, the emptiness that’s left inside your heart when they go.”  This is so true.  Leo Buscaglia said, “Death is a challenge.  It tells us not to waste time.”  Also true.  Bruce Lee, who died at the young age of 32, said, “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” 

That blog was written after another friend of mine passed away unexpectedly at 47. I talk about how precious time is and how death and time often tie together. I mention in that blog that “life” also ties in with time and death. “Live every day as if it were your last. Someday, you’ll be right.” That quote was written on the band room announcement grease board some 33 years ago by our band director, Tom Shaner and it will always remain with me.

Every year, I would look forward to the Shaner’s Christmas card. They often would share photos and a yearly recap. Tom would always scribble a little note off to the side of the card to me and sign it “TRoy.” Tom passed away a couple days before Christmas last year. Today, the Shaner Christmas letter arrived, this time with a hand written note from his wife. She continues to grieve, as do the rest of his family.

At the end of her letter, she included a quote that I have never seen before, but found to be absolutely perfect. I wanted to share it here because I know many others who are grieving this holiday season. The quote reads: “When we lose someone we love, we must learn not to live without them, but to live with the love they left behind.” (Unknown)

That quote is SO VERY TRUE! It can apply to someone who you have lost recently or many years ago. It also ties in with the last quote I used in my previous blog about life, death, and time. The blog reads: The late author Terry Pratchett says this: “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.”  

Whether you are grieving the loss of a loved one or friend who has passed away recently, or a long time ago – every time you think of them there are ripples. Every story you tell, there are ripples. Every smile they bring to your face, there are ripples. They live on and their love lives on – and the ripples continue….

Time. Life. Death. Ripples.

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The longest song I ever played on the air was Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie which is just over 18 minutes long.  We played this on the classic rock station (and sometimes on the oldies station) every Thanksgiving.  To those who love the song, it was the perfect length.  To those who hated the song, it went on too long.  Their feelings about the song depended on their perception of time.  (Incidentally, the shortest song I ever played on the radio was Her Majesty by the Beatles.  I think it clocks in at just over 20 seconds long.)

Time. I have found myself thinking a lot about time over the past month or so. I have had the word “time” written on my list of blog topics for a while, but have never felt that I am ready to blog about it.  In all honesty, I am still not ready, but I had to write something to clear my head.

There is no shortage of great quotes about time:

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst” – William Penn

“Time isn’t the main thing.  It’s the only thing” – Miles Davis

“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted” – John Lennon

“Lost time is never found again” – Benjamin Franklin

Time is one of those things that is constantly moving.  It moves second by second.  Hour by hour.  Day by day.  Year by year. The truth of the matter is that time is constant.  3 minutes is 3 minutes.  How one perceives that 3 minutes depends on the situation.  In some cases, 3 minutes can feel like 10 minutes. In others it can feel like just 1 minute.  Think of an 8 hour work day and compare it to 8 hours on vacation.  Vacation time is flying by while the clock at work moves slowly.

Earlier this month, Facebook was flooded with “First Day of School” pictures.  My friends posted pictures with captions that read: “Where did the time go?”, “Wasn’t she just in kindergarten?”, “How did he grow up so fast?”, and “Last First Day of School”.  I can relate to that last one as my oldest son started his Senior year this year.  My Facebook “Memories” feed has been full of my own kid’s “first day of school” pictures, and I, too, have wondered those same questions.

So why am I rambling about time??

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In my 49 years on this planet, I have lost many people close to me, many at a young age.  Some of them, I have blogged about: my mom (who was only 58),  my grandpa (mom’s dad, also 58), my radio buddy, Rob (only 56), and my Uncle Tom (just 68).  This week, I found out a good friend passed away unexpectedly at only 47 and another friend was basically told her days are numbered – she is 48.  I can’t imagine how time will proceed for her.

I understand that death is a part of life.  I am reminded of a quote from my psychology class that said, “The hardest part of losing someone isn’t having to say goodbye, but rather learning to live without them – always having to fill the void, the emptiness that’s left inside your heart when they go.”  This is so true.  Leo Buscaglia said, “Death is a challenge.  It tells us not to waste time.”  Also true.  Bruce Lee, who died at the young age of 32, said, “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” 

I sit here staring at this computer screen and my thoughts are all over the place.  Is this blog about Time or Death?  I don’t know.  I guess they both tie together somehow in my mind.  I guess Life also ties in with them.  “Live every day as if it were your last. Someday, you’ll be right.” That quote, which I read on the band room announcement grease board 31 years ago, will always remain with me.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that those three things (life, death, and time) do all go together.  Looking back at the people I have quoted, they have all passed away, yet their words are still here making an impact.  I guess this proves the quote of another person who is no longer here.  The late author Terry Pratchett says this: “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.”  

I still talk about my mom – ripples.

I still tell stories about my Uncle Tom – ripples.

I still laugh along with Rob when I listen to our old shows – ripples.

Thinking of my buddy Rob, I remember ad-libbing a poem on the air about an upcoming station event.  He looked at me and his Elvis character voice he said to me, “Man! You’re a real Carl Sandburg today.”  It’s probably a coincidence that I have a Carl Sandburg quote about time to share:

“Time is the coin of your life.  It’s the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandburg

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As I re-read this blog, I realize that it is a jumbled mess of thoughts.  For that I apologize to anyone who has ever read my blog and said “You’re a good writer.”  Usually my blogs have a point to them, I am not sure this one does.  Hell, I don’t even have a title yet!  I really wish I had planned this out a little better.  Tell you what, for now, let’s say this blog is a “tease” to the “real” blog about “time” to come at a future date.  And as far as the point, or moral, or lesson?  Uh….how bout this….

Make good use of your time and live your life so that you will be forever causing ripples.

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